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RAWALPINDI, Aug 9: More than 200 gardeners on Thursday staged a demonstration over non-payment of their salaries of July due to the tussle between Rawal Town Municipal Administration (RTMA) and Parks and Horticulture Agency (PHA).

The gardeners gathered in front of Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA) and RTMA offices and staged a sit in, separately. They urged the provincial government to release the salaries of the poor employees who had failed to buy anything for their children for the occasion of upcoming Eid.

While talking to Dawn, RTMA Employees Union President Ansar Safeer Butt said that it was strange that government established PHA and did not allocate funds for it. He further said that it was the duty of the provincial government to pay the salaries to employees before Eid. He added the salaries of the gardeners were already very low and they were finding it difficult to make their both ends meet. He also said the government employees had been shuttling from pillar to post but they government failed to solve their problems.

It may be mentioned here that PHA was established in 2011 by merging the horticulture wings of Rawal Town Municipal Administration (RTMA) and Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA) on the directives of Punjab government.

The Punjab government gave the administrative control of the new agency to the RDA but the salaries of the employees were being paid through the accounts of the RTMA.

However, the civic body was no longer willing to accept this financial burden. It informed the secretary local government that it was already losing its sources of income and assets and the additional burden of salaries to the employees that worked with other departments was creating problems for the civic body.

On the other hand, PHA officials were of the view that the provincial government did not any allocate direct fund for the agency and it would be difficult for it to pay the salaries to the gardeners.

Rawal Town Administrator Saif Anwar Jappa told Dawn the RTMA handed over 42 parks and open spaces along with its over 200 employees and assets to the PHA last year. “On the directives of the government, the RTMA was paying the salaries of the employees worth Rs60 million annually to PHA,” he said.

He said that the RTMA wrote a letter to the secretary local government to issue clear directions whether the 200 gardeners would be the employees of the RTMA or the PHA and as to who would pay their salaries during the next fiscal year.

“Due to silence over the issue, the RTMA had stopped the salaries to these employees for the fiscal year 2012-13,” he said and added that the civic body would only release the salaries after the government issued clear directions over the issue.

He further said that after the protest, the Divisional Commissioner Imdadullah Bosal raised the issue with secretary local government and he assured that directions in this regard would be issued within two days.

“We will pay Rs60 million for the salaries of gardeners for the fiscal 2012-13 if the government asked us to do so,” he assured.

When contacted, Parks and Horticulture Agency (PHA) Managing Director Capt (retired) Mushtaq Ahmed said that the gardeners were still the in strength of the RTMA and it was responsible to pay them salaries.

He said the issue had been resolved and the government would issue the directions to the RTMA to pay the salaries. He, however, admitted that there was no direct funding for the agency and it had to work on uplift schemes after getting the funds from the provincial government on lawmakers’ recommendations. He said that like Wasa, the government should allocate funds for the civic agency too.